February 19, 2003

ZBIG MISTAKE (via Kevin Whited):

Why Unity Is Essential (Zbigniew Brzezinski, February 19, 2003, Washington Post)
The manner in which the United States has reacted to European reservations regarding Iraq has created the impression that some U.S. leaders confuse NATO with the Warsaw Pact. Even worse, the glee in Washington over European division regarding the U.S. position has nurtured the European penchant for conspiracy theories. Not only is the United States suspected of welcoming European disunity; some Europeans are beginning to believe that the United States, largely under the influence of those policymakers most eager for war, is actually planning a grand strategic realignment. The Atlantic alliance would be replaced by a coalition of non-European states, such as Russia, India and Israel, each with special hostility toward various parts of the Muslim world. [...]

Several basic conclusions thus follow:

* The United States should not engage in tit-for-tat polemics directed at its most important allies. That is as demeaning as it is destructive. There is an urgent need for a reaffirmation at the highest level of the priority of the Atlantic alliance as the anchor point of America's engagement in world.

Mr. Brzezinski is an elderly man with a disappointing career behind him and it must be painful to watch the continent of his birth pass into its twilight years too, but the above is a reflection of a mind that's stuck in the 1970s, or earlier. The simple truth is that the Europeans aren't our most important allies anymore and that the Muslim world, about which they are unconcerned, does contain the main threat to our security in the world today. Europe (or France and Germany which is what we mean when we say Europe) with its post-Western belief systems, declining population, ever growing welfare states, and its lunatic project for a massive authoritarian bureaucracy is, unless a radical retrenchment can be affected, doomed to rapid and catastrophic decline. It has more to fear from exploding deficits and large and unassimilated cohorts of Muslim immigrants than it does from nations like Iraq, Syria, Pakistan and North Korea and its people will under no circumstances tolerate the diversion of welfare dollars to a military build-up, so it's pointless to look to Europe as a strategic ally any longer.

It is therefore logical and necessary to forge a new coalition of the states whose economic futures are brighter and whose interests lie in confronting Islamicist terror and in reforming the Muslim world to bring it freedom, peace, and prosperity. In this regard, and because of its historic rivalry with the last significant communist state (China), India is our most important 21st Century ally in trade and military terms. Several states of dubious economic promise are nevertheless key allies because of geography, military prowess, shared values, or all three: these include, especially, Israel, Turkey, and Taiwan. There is, further, a set of states, less important in geostrategic terms, with whom we are bound by a shared past or a common culture: Latin America, maybe still Britain and the rest of the Commonwealth, perhaps Eastern Europe, and probably an increasingingly Christianized Africa. They will become or remain allies just because we're relatively similar.

For fifty years, the Atlantic Alliance served its purpose and served it rather badly. While we confronted the Soviet Union we allowed our European allies a nearly free military ride during which they became addicted to government services and, as wards of the state, jettisoned old religious and philosophical beliefs and the structures of civil society--church, family, neighborhood, etc.--leaving the individual with only one relationship that really matters, that with the government, which dispenses benefits and cares for all material needs. Sure, communism was eventually driven from the continent, but what remains of Europe? Naught but an atomized people with no care beyond where their next check is coming from.

I'd always been inclined to accept Paul Kennedy's argument that it is large military budgets that pose the greatest threat to the stability of Great Powers. But now it may be time to start considering an alternative possibility, perhaps largish military budgets divert a sufficient amount of money from social spending that they act as a brake on economism. H.W. Brands has written that America almost accidentally became something of a welfare state because the American Right allowed the Left higher social spending as the cost for getting higher military spending. Yet, thinking about it now, what's most noticable about America's welfare system is not that we have one but that it's so much less extensive than that of other Western nations. Perhaps it was precisely the Cold War military budgets that kept us from becoming France? Whatever the case, the fact remains, we avoided the fate of Western Europe and, if we privatize things like Social Security, Medicare, unemployment insurance, and primary education, we may just be able to avoid it for much longer.

What we're left with at the end of the day though is the perhaps sad realization that just as Europe no longer matters much in military terms and soon won't matter much in economic terms, we no longer even share a similar vision of the proper division of responsibility in a state between the people, social institutions, business, and the government. Mr. Brzezinski is in effect trying to force us down a path we chose not to take, one that seems to have little future. The American future, as always, lies in freedom, not security, in risky ascent, not in comfortable decline. France and Germany need not be our enemies--they hardly matter enough to even warrant the term--but the way they've chosen to structure their cultures is antithetical to the American way. Their ideas, if not they themselves, are the enemy.

Posted by Orrin Judd at February 19, 2003 11:27 AM

Now Orrin, be kind. It took you a while to realize that Russia for demographics and other reasons wasn't an important coalition partner. And you don't suffer under two of Zbig's handicaps regarding Europe:

1. Hoping that Ukraine will matter to the world.

2. Living in that dissent free bubble of elder statesmanship.

On the plus side, he was the staunchest anti-communist in Jimmy Carter's cabinet (admittedly not the most competivite contest).

Posted by: Drew Craft at February 19, 2003 12:31 PM

Russia is an important coalition partner, because they border China and Islam, but they're toast demographically, unless Orthodoxy really takes hold again.

Posted by: oj at February 19, 2003 12:39 PM

Your thoughts on the effects of a LACK of military spending are interesting, as I have been pondering same, and realizing how we allowed it to happen, and just didn't think much about it until now, when it might be too late.

Allow me to sum it up in way that I have been sprikling about the blogoshere...

When you choose not to spend (sacrifice) for defense, it is a very short pyschological leap to "I guess there really isn't anything here worth defending".

And here we are. I wonder how many people last weekend found something worth marching for, but nothing worth defending.

Posted by: Andrew X at February 19, 2003 1:13 PM

I agree totally with the need to orient this nation's security institutions and foreign policies away from Europe and toward that Arc of Instability that runs from the near east to the far east. Certainly we should transfer most of our Paris-based diplomats and military officials from Paris to New Delhi, Ankara, Moscow and Tokyo, and should shutter NATO and replace it with a more traditional set of bilateral agreements with the key players in this Asian Century, most importantly India, Russia, China and Japan.

However, in the cultural/social realm, I think the anti-americanism/anti-euroweenie-ism is getting a bit out of hand. The fact is that our societies are converging in nearly every respect (except religious belief and views on the use of military force):

-- we're both aging rapidly (by far the most important trend of all, one that affects the West + Japan almost equally and to a far greater extent than any non-Western or -Japanese society)

-- families rapidly changing under the influence of feminism, divorce, and individualism;

-- increase in prominence of and rights for gays;

-- solid majorities in favor of abortion;

-- swift adoption of life-changing technologies

-- slowing economic growth generally and continuied dominance of economies by large, bureaucratic giants struggling to maintain jobs and market share in face of global oversupply (autos chemicals steel paper etc) and increased economic volatility

The US and the EU have far more in common with each other socially, economically, politically, demographically and culturally than the US has with its southern neighbors or the EU has with its Eastern neighbors. A young German would get along better and feel more at home in Boston or San Fran than he would in any of the east German i lander. Likewise an American would feel far more at home anywhere in France or Italy than he would in any Mexican city.

The transatlantic spat is like the one btn North and South prior to the Civil War: a clash of self-flattering cultural sterortypes ("yankees" vs "cavaliers") that obscure the reality of great similarities and increasing social and economic

b convergence

Posted by: teplukhin at February 19, 2003 3:09 PM

Zbiggy is suffering from that catastrophic loss of status that afflicts every Cold War-era Soviet specialist. Even worse when your focus has been on the battleground between Russia, a second-rate power barely able to rein in its own chaotic regions and facing a demographic implosion, and Germany, saddled with its own basket-case Eastern economy and facing demographic decline as well.

Does the man have any deep insight into the near and far east? If not, then he's not adding any value to this country's security debate.

New century now, new realities, and time for a new orientation. Asian Century: Look East, young Americans! Our security depends on getting serious about and focused on INDIA, CHINA, TURKEY/IRAQ/IRAN and JAPAN/KOREA

Posted by: teplukhin at February 19, 2003 3:17 PM


Little of that is true of the U.S. as far as demographics or social values are concerned and it's worth noting that we think we're in an economic slump, even though we're in our 22nd straight year of growth, just because things have slowed a little. There's no other Western economy that can even come close to our performance.

Posted by: oj at February 19, 2003 3:58 PM
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